Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Heaven's Hospitality: Nicodemus John 3:1-21

Notice the contrast between light and darkness. It is key to understand that Nicodemus was a religious leader that was living in the darkness spiritually. As he moved closer to Jesus and knowing Him, he was moving closer to the light. When we first move from darkness to light it is hard for us to see, but as we remain in the light our eyes will begin to adjust. This is true with our spiritual understanding as well.

Heaven's Hospitality: Ruth 2

What if kindness was the norm even during evil times? listen to the kindness found in Ruth 2 and consider how it was lived out during the time of Judges when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. The book of Ruth becomes a sweet reminder that kindness is a beautiful gift in hospitality.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

What I learned from hitting a tree!

What I learned from hitting a tree!


 I loved the swish of the wind and the sound of the “ZZZZZZ” of the line. I cried out to GOD aloud, “This is amazing! It must be wonderful to be a bird to see all of this beauty at anytime!” I looked out over the canopy of the trees and zipped across the tree line shouting with glee. As I neared the platform I started to pull down on the break and I noticed it wasn’t slowing. I looked at the twenty-year old guy on the platform and noticed he was chatting with the other team members. He wasn’t looking at me. I heard in my heart, “You are going to hit the tree. Relax your body. Bend your knees. And when you hit push off the tree!” I had no time to think I just responded, and I hit the tree. HARD! My body responds even now with sweaty palms, and I can feel the UMPH reverberate in me. My response. LAUGHTER! I hide my fear and pain by laughing. I was in shock. I did not know I was hurt. The guy moved my zip line to the next line and went on to his next arrival. I never told him, "I am hurt!"

I was able to stabilize myself and allow the zip harness to hold me up as I felt my body shake. I remembered two of my students were afraid of heights and all I could think was “I cannot let them know that I am hurt. It will make them afraid.” We were on a two-hour tour zipping through the trees. I had no clue how far into the tour we were or how many zips we had left. I did not know that the last zip was our fastest zip at about 35 miles an hour because our guide told us as we waited to zip across. I got on to the next zip hoping it was the last, too afraid to ask. I have no clue what I was thinking from this point forward. I just kept moving forward. I know there was lots of laughter and chatter all around me. I was silent. We were asked to move off the zipline after that zip because we were about to do our last zip. This is when I realized something was not right. I stood between two college guys that made me feel tiny when I started to feel like I was about to pass out. It was 100 degrees that day so they didn’t think anything of me asking if I could hold onto their shoulders. They thought it was because of the heat. 

We were told that we were not allowed to get out of order but when the guy said that it was our last zip, I stepped out of line and walked right up to the zip and made him harness me. No one argued. I was the Dean of Women and the old lady on the tour. I got what I wanted in that moment. I listened to the ZZZZZZZ of the line for the last time and I have no memory of it. 

When I landed, I walked off the platform and as I stood waiting, I realized that my feet could not handle my weight, so I sat down on the rocks. The guide yelled at me and said, “No one is allowed to sit on the rocks.” This is when I realized I could not stand well on my own and the realization hit me that I was seriously injured. Some of the shock was starting to wear off now that I was off the zipline, so I allowed myself to feel for the first time what happened. It was surreal. I noticed that students were walking up the gravel hill to get to our bus about 100 yards away. I called out to my daughter Mikayla and said, “Come here!” I whispered to her, “I can’t walk!” She had no clue what was happening. I told her, “Help me to get to the bus. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.” She did. 

Somehow, I managed to get from the bus to the restaurant where we were eating that was across the street. I went to go pay our bill and as I waited for the cashier this is when I knew I could no longer stand on my own. The pain was unleashing burning searing waves radiating through my feet and up my legs. I felt faint. I do not remember telling the male dean or what happened from that point forward. I have vague memories of my students carrying me and trying to watch them finish out leadership tasks in blind folds. But these memories are like glimpses into a movie scene that pops up. I have a hint of it, but not a full grasp. 
I tried hard to make light of what happened because I hate being seen as weak. UGH! I am so prideful! “My new nickname is George! Just call me George and cry out, ‘Watch out for that tree!’” 

I knew I needed to see a doctor and I knew I needed a wheelchair. I wondered how I would tell my Greg. Phone calls did not work in the mountain, but I could text, so I text him and said, “See if you can find the movie George of the Jungle and could you please get me a wheelchair! I hit a tree!” I don’t remember his responses either. 

It is weird when you know you have walked through a moment, and you cannot recall it. We drove home to Nebraska the next day. I remember ice on my feet and a cooler holding me up. I remember kindness. Such kindness. Tears well up now, but I do not remember details. 

The next day I went to the doctor and after x-rays and seeing several doctors I learned that I had crushed my heal pads and tore all of my tendons and ligaments in my feet, ankles, and up into my legs. Time would reveal that I also reinjured areas in my lower back. The doctor told me that what I heard before I hit the tree saved my life and kept me from living with a crushed spine. It was in this moment that I knew I heard the voice of God and I obeyed. 

Today is the fifth anniversary of me hitting the tree and I would like to share what God has taught me. When Facebook reminded me that this was the day our team went ziplining, I realized that I am okay. In fact, I am finally ready to put to print what I learned from this experience. I never posted about it and only if you really know me well would you know that I went through it. Part of the reason is that I am prideful and vain. I have had to repent of both of those a lot in this journey. I would not allow my family to take photos of me in the wheelchair or using the walker because I did not want to look weak. UGH! I confess it now because I know the truth that when we are weak He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). The other reason was that I do not like writing or posting about things that I have not fully processed and allowed God to bring about His good fruit in me. I can with great joy say that on this fifth anniversary my heart is full and rich because of what I went through, and I know this is only because of what God has done for me. 

Shortly after I was injured someone suggested to me that God allowed me to be injured because He saw that I was sinning, and He knew I needed a wake-up call. O my! How to process that! God quickly reminded me that “pain happens to good people doing good things” as much as it happens to “bad people doing bad things.” None of us are exempt from having bad things happen in our lives. Things go wrong. Bad things happen. It only takes a split second. What we need to ask ourselves is How can I draw near to God in my pain and suffering? How can I give God honor in my pain and suffering? And how can I give to others what I am learning through this journey? I was not living in habitual sin or sinning in any form that would warrant God causing me to hit a tree and get injured. Honestly, that did not resonate with what I knew about God. I needed to simply accept that bad things just happen. No one is to blame. They just happen. 

As I reflected on my year and that I had chosen the leadership word of “Joy”, I realized that God prepared me in advance to be a person who chooses joy rather than whines and complains. I had already been praying for this character trait to be evident in me and I was able to pull on those prayers as I really wanted to whine and cry. I also realized once again how intimate my relationship with God truly had become. I heard Him tell me what to do and I did it. This realization gave me tremendous comfort as I processed my pain. It could have been so much worse! 

It was the first time in my life that I felt a level 10 pain. I hate pain scales. I cannot honestly answer them anymore because I have experienced what I thought was a 10 on the pain scale. Labeling pain now seems almost unnecessary when it comes to my normal pain in any given day. How am I to scale pain when I know a 10? PAIN HURTS! And when pain is in full force it is so hard to think, care, or even see others much less put it on a scale! 

One day I was determined to walk to my classroom to teach without using my walker to get there. I was so prideful that I refused to stay in the wheelchair as long as I should have or on the walker as long as I was supposed to. I was so foolish! As I walked across the parking lot between the Administration building, the dorms, and the classroom, I was trying to walk but my pain was so intense that I wanted to sit down in the parking lot and cry. I wondered, “What would my students think if they saw their Dean of Women sitting in the parking lot bawling?” This is when God gave me my pain song, “Thy will!” by Hilary Scott. There is a line that says, “Thy will be done!” over and over. I started singing that song in my heart for each step, “Thy will be done! Thy will be done! Thy will be done!” and before I knew it, I was finally in my classroom. I felt so exhausted and empty, but I did it! God helped me walk to my classroom by myself. I carried my own things and did it! TRIUMPH comes in the very small things. I wondered if my students learned anything from me that day, but I made it across the parking lot despite the pain. PAIN HURTS, but GOD showed me I am stronger. I am so much stronger than I realized. I had no clue how strong I really was, but He was making it clear. With Him all things were possible (Matthew 19:26). 

I also learned that pain brought fear. I found that I was afraid of hitting things and in general I had this unusual sense of not feeling safe. I did not recognize this until one day in chapel as the worship song was being sung by our student leaders, I had a vision of God. It was so real that I felt it with my sense of touch. I saw a lion. A Big Beautiful LION! I walked up to Him, and He welcomed me with a nod of His mane. I laid down beside Him and nuzzled my face into His mane. It felt wirey and stiff. I started to run my fingers through the mane only to realize it was not easy to do because a lion’s mane is course. His muzzle felt like velvet, and I just curled up to Him and felt so safe. In this moment, I knew that God is safe, God is good, and God is present. I need not be afraid anymore. God did not make me hit the tree. He allowed it but did not make it happen. He was using it to teach me things so that I could give them to others as they dealt with pain and suffering. This vision was so real to me that I did not want it to end. I clung to that vision and used these verses as reminders of what God was teaching me. 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand” (Isaiah 41:10). 

“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His loving kindness is everlasting” (1 Chronicles 16:34). 

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (feet)” (Psalm 34:18). 

 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in our time of need” (Psalm 46:1)

Every morning I would rise-up and read the Psalms. They became nourishment to my soul. I was accustomed to reading large amounts of Scripture every day, but suddenly I found that I only had to read one and I was suddenly stopped by God. His Word was so alive and active in me. I felt His presence as never before. I found myself crying out, “I love the Jesus me, better than the me, me!” Begging God to grow the Jesus me and to remove the me, me! This prayer was especially important when I was home alone with Greg. I would work hard all day at school trying to hide my pain and then when I got home, I had nothing left to give Greg. God used Greg to minister to my pain in the raw, real, and ugly moments. Greg remained faithful and understanding when I was not the Jesus, me. He loved me even when the me, me showed up. God used Greg to be Jesus with skin on to me and show me love when I did not feel lovable. For Greg, I wanted to be more like Jesus than ever before. Eventually, I discovered that pain opened doors for me. 

The truths found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 became my heart cry. 

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many" (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). 

I asked God to use my distress and suffering to bring comfort and salvation to those I served. I wanted people to know that I did not rely on myself, but God and that He alone is the one that delivered me and enabled me to give thanks and keep on walking. And if they did not encounter the Jesus, me then it was because I was the one who walked away from the God of all comfort and compassion not the other way around. 

So where am I today with my feet and pain levels? I get asked this by those that know me and know my suffering. I am good. I am not where I want to be, but I am good. I know that God is good. God is safe. God is present. He is my help in my time of need. I have developed an incredible sense of empathy for pain and suffering. I can see it in people’s stories, bodies, and movement. God causes me to pray for people that I might not have ever seen before because now He has given me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that is willing to respond. And feet that move slow! I guess I needed to slow down! 

God surprised me recently. One night we were playing games and I had my feet up on Grant’s lap. He was unconsciously rubbing my feet. This is not something I have been able to tolerate since my injury, but on this night, God revealed a sweet gift to me. As Grant rubbed my foot, I jerked my foot back and he apologized so profusely as tears rolled down my cheeks. I tried to assure him, “Mommy is okay!” I jerked my feet because for the first time in four and a half years I felt pleasure at the bottom of my foot. It tickled! PURE JOY! I recently had prayed a different prayer. I simply said something like, “God, You have given us smart phones and smart brains. Will You please make my brain smart enough to heal my feet!” God heard and He answered. I can feel a tickle! That is bliss! 

I still suffer from chronic pain and if I walk too much or do too much I limp, but I know that God is good! God is safe! God is present! And that God is opening doors for me to walk through simply because I know pain and His goodness through it. Now that is a beautiful thing! 

I know you have your pain story. Everyone does. What are you doing with your pain? Will you use it to give God glory? 

It is okay if you don’t know how. Just ask Him. I promise He is good. He is safe! He is present! And He will help you in your time of need! 

"And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15). 

 Happy 5th Anniversary to me! 

 Shalom Y’all!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Spiritual Discipline of Storytelling

When I first began my journey in discovering how to tell Bible stories in my own words, my focus was all about how to get the gospel in the heart language of those listening and to reach the nations. My mind was on using it as a tool for others. My mind was not so much on the gift it would bring me. I had no idea that GOD would surprise me with a deeper lesson for me. As COVID hit our area, I noticed that the consumption of the news and social media was creating a frenzy of fear. It only took about a little less than two weeks for me to realize this is not sustainable. I cannot live in a spirit of consumption. I am designed to create, not consume. So I made a conscious choice to remove the consumption and get on with creativity. The creative outlet I chose was birthed out of sadness. I had prepared for months for two big conferences and suddenly I was told that both were canceled. What was I to do with all that God had put on my heart? I still felt that I had something to say, so I decided to create short videos teaching a few of the truths God had given me. 

During the beautiful spring days, I would go outside and sit on my back patio and begin to go over the Bible stories that God had given me to teach. As I went over a story and took the time to record it, I discovered a sense of peace that reached deep inside me. I discovered that when I created and recorded the Bible stories, it did not matter that our world was crashing in with COVID and race riots because I had found a deep soul satisfaction in creating. It did not matter that I only had a handful of people actually watching the videos. What mattered was that God was calling the deep out of me. I discovered that the craft and practice of creating a Bible story to be told had become a spiritual act of worship for me because, over time, story crafting/telling had become a spiritual discipline. 

 What is a spiritual discipline? 

Richard Foster author of The Celebration of Discipline defines spiritual discipline as “habits, practices, and experiences that are designed to develop, grow, and strengthen certain qualities of the spirit– to build the ‘muscles’ of one’s character and expand one’s inner life.” Brett and Kay McKay expand the definition for spiritual discipline as “the habits, practices, and experiences that are designed to strengthen certain qualities of the Spirit—to ‘build muscles’ of one’s character and expand the breadth of one’s inner life. They structure the ‘workouts’ which train the soul.” Without even knowing that this occurred in my life, I discovered that the practice of learning how to tell a Bible story, and then telling it, had become a spiritual discipline that was strengthening my inner life. My soul was being trained by my story crafting! I discovered that peace, counsel, might, knowledge, understanding, and yes even a healthier fear of the LORD were taking place in me. This gave me a greater confidence and assurance in God’s greatness and goodness even amidst COVID and turmoil of 2020. I realized I was “centered” when most around me were in chaos. I enjoyed soul satisfaction and a greater sense of community both with God and others, even in their pain. I celebrated an overflow of organic truths pouring out of me as others were spewing fear, anger, hatred, confusion, or pride. I was convicted when I fell prey to my own fears and forgotten moments of who I am, who I belong to, and what I am called to do. The more I made the crafting and creating of stories to tell, the more I realized that the Word had become the meditation of my heart moving me from feeling frozen and heartbroken to joyful and worshipful. 

Why have we not given the rally cry for storytelling as one of the great spiritual disciplines? Do we have biblical precedence for Bible storytelling to be a spiritual discipline? 

The Psalmist Asaph prophesied that Jesus would use parables. 

 My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. (Psalm 78:1-3) 

Jesus fulfilled the prophecy by speaking in parables. 

 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world” (Matthew 13:34-35).

We could also discuss how the disciples used stories as a part of their daily discipline in teaching others. Just a quick scan of the book of Acts reveals that telling the story of Jesus was what they did. Jesus and the disciples developed the discipline of telling the stories of Scripture and Jesus because it fulfilled and revealed truth. 

What is a spiritual discipline? 

A spiritual discipline is a practice that we do that helps us to become more like Jesus. It is the process of doing something so that we might become a vessel where people can find Christ! 

What made the disciples so effective as disciple makers? 

They simply told the story of Jesus. There were no schools on what to do, no seminary classes on what to say, no Sunday schools or City groups to help them create a strategy or plan. Their discipline came in following Jesus. They didn’t have to practice telling the stories. The stories were the overflow of what they were experiencing. As we read Acts, we discover they simply told the story of Jesus over and over. It was in their telling that their discipline showed up. 

Several years ago, I read the Master Storyteller by Swarr, Gidoomal, and Araujo. I came across the word davar. These authors pointed out that davar is the Hebrew word for “Word”. The authors explained that davar is not just the Word, but it is the ability to fulfill what was spoken. They also pointed out that the Word can be spoken, written, illustrated, and/or experienced (p. 3). As I read this, I realized that is my heart cry. I long to be the person who speaks, writes, illustrates, and experiences the Word of God in such a way that others will be compelled to speak, write, illustrate, and experience the Word of God, too. So, I am praying that I davar. This can only happen in the process of time as I develop the habit of crafting and telling Bible stories. This discipline only comes through the struggle of pushing through in the story to get better each time I tell it. The discipline of experiencing the Word happens as I practice over and over and recreate new memory maps in my mind. And somewhere along the way, I discovered I am experiencing the Word of God in a new and powerful way. I discovered insights that no one had taught me before as I reflected and meditated on the story. It changed my prayer life, which changed my thought patterns and actions. I noticed that it then changed the desires of my heart and led to making specific life choices that honored God, and it opened doors of opportunity to share about God and His stories with others. The discipline of storytelling helped me to grow deeper and bear more fruit because the consistent, habitual commitment to learn, share, and teach a Bible story helped me to become more like Jesus. I moved from studying the Word of God to becoming like the Word of God. 

Can you honestly say that when you hear the Bible or read the Bible that you experience it? Why or why not?

In Hebrews 4:12, we are told that the Scripture is alive and active like a double-edged sword. We are supposed to experience the Word of God. I am a North American Oral Strategist or a Story-centric Discipleship Maker because I love to show others how they can speak, write, illustrate, or experience the Word of God. My goal is to help people actively engage with the Word of God. 

What is the process that must take place for something to become a spiritual discipline? 

“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7) 

For me, the process of Bible storytelling came in four stages. 
    1) The fear and frustration phase 
    2) The commitment phase 
           a) Learning the practice
           b) Repeating the practice 
           c) Developing the practice 
    3) The discovery phase 
            a) Perseverance & Time
            b) Develop Rhythm
            c) Grow in deep truths
    4) The fruitful phase 
            a) Soul Depth
            b) Soul Satisfaction
            c)  Spiritual Sense of Wonder and Awe
            d) Spiritual Sense of community with God and others

In the fear and frustration stage, I was a new graduate from seminary ready to change the world. I would go and teach based on a topical study method with three points like I was taught. It greatly confused me when I did not see life transformation taking place in the people. 

Here is a parable I wrote about my journey! 

A long time ago, a very passionate teacher gave her students every single detail of information she would learn, but she soon discovered that many were overwhelmed and did not understand what she was teaching. At first, the teacher thought something was wrong with her, and then she thought something was wrong with her students. The teacher felt frustrated and really struggled because she wanted to teach in a way her students would understand. Out of frustration and resignation, one day she simply told a story. To her surprise, her students were excited and were able to recall what she taught. The teacher caught the truth that a story enables people to engage the Bible and encounter Jesus so that life change happens. 

The commitment phase began as I started telling stories. I did not know that there was an oral culture or oral strategy for Bible storytelling, until one day I stood behind two pastors discussing Chronological storytelling. I knew immediately I had to know more. I asked a few questions and began the process of learning. This is when I discovered that there is such a thing as an oral culture and oral strategies for Bible storytelling. I was ferocious in my research to learn more. In my research, I uncovered that there was a network called the International Orality Network. 

At the International Orality Conference, I encountered Bible storytellers for the first time. THEY TERRIFIED ME! Don’t get me wrong, they were great at what they did, but that was my issue. They were great at what they did, and it scared me. Their practice had removed them from how hard it is for a literate learner to develop the craft. I remember one encounter with a storyteller that literally made me freeze as she demanded that I tell her a Bible story she just randomly picked from the Bible. It was as if my mind became a blank slate and there was nothing there to share. I couldn’t even pull up the story, even though I knew it well enough that in a normal conversation I would have brought it up easily. There was something about the idea of performance that made me freeze. A spiritual discipline is not about performance. It is about drawing near to Jesus. 

God knew I needed a different approach to learn how to tell Bible stories. He led me to John Walsh, Michael Forestieri, Don Falkos, and Phyllis Hostmeyer to find my rhythm for storytelling. As I sat under their teaching, I discovered different methods for learning a story and different styles for presenting a story. John reminded me often that it was okay to mess up and that, in fact, a “good Bible storyteller will fail” and that is okay. God is big enough and the listener is kind enough to grant room for improvement. 

In the discovery phase, I started crafting my own style of Bible storytelling. In the process of practice, perseverance, and time, I developed mental memory maps for Bible storytelling. The journey was not easy for me. I felt like I was working my way up and over a very big mountain every time I practiced telling a Bible story. In the practice of preparation and process of time, I discovered that I had a sacred rhythm that grew out of this process. I started to notice deep truths that no one showed me. I would hear directly from God. I could tell that God was calling the deep out of me, and I felt closer to Him and richer from having spent time studying a passage to be able to tell it well. It was during the practice of preparing stories during COVID that I realized that it was no longer as hard for me. What used to take weeks and sometimes longer was coming to me in an hour. And it doesn’t take as much for me to go back over a story I learned a few years ago. In the past, I would have to relearn it, but now I can recall some of them without practice. 

The fruitful phase brought about blessings I never anticipated. The fruitful phase showed me that the discipline of learning Bible stories moved me from viewing Bible storytelling as a tool to a craft that brought forth creativity, which then inspired change. The Bible was no longer about consuming because it was what we should do each day. The Bible became my lifeline to creativity. I noticed that the more I was in the Word of God, the more I was with Jesus, and the more I was transformed. 
I noticed that the practice of storytelling developed my personal: 

  1) Soul depth 
  2) Soul satisfaction 
  3) Spiritual Sense of wonder and awe 
  4) Spiritual Sense of community with God and others 

I would like to say that I chose to make Bible storytelling a spiritual discipline, but I did not. It was a practice I did because I knew it was an effective tool, but overtime God surprised me. He wanted me to see that Bible Storytelling was a spiritual discipline that draws people closer to Him. Those that study His stories will know His character and what pleases Him. 

I found that when I studied Bible stories to tell, I found things that God revealed to me personally and I would later read a commentary and discover that He also showed it to someone like Charles Spurgeon or Matthew Henry. I was shocked to discover that God would give me such deep insight just from preparing a story to tell. One of my favorite revelations happened as I prepared the story of Jesus calling the disciples. As I studied this story and wrote out the character traits of God, I realized that from the names given in this short passage I could see Jesus’ history and mission revealed just through the names He was called. I realized that I feel God’s pleasure as I prepare Bible stories. I know His delight in me and this causes me soul satisfaction. 

One day I remembered a quote made by Eric Liddell, he British runner who won the gold medal in the 1924 Olympics. The story told is that Eric’s family were missionaries and one day his sister was reprimanding him for neglecting his responsibilities to God by running. Eric responded that when he runs, he feels the pleasure of God. Our spiritual discipline will cause us to know the pleasure of God. I know that there are those that would argue that Eric Liddell’s discipline in running is not a spiritual gift, but the concept of knowing God’s good pleasure at work in us when we seek to do His will stands true. 

Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” 

Just as the discipline of Bible storytelling gave me soul depth and soul satisfaction, it also taught me how to focus more on the character of God and His work around me to grow my spiritual sense of wonder and awe. My respect for God grew as I learned more about Him and His work. The spiritual discipline of studying Bible stories reminded me that God is present and at work unleashing His power and authority in my life, just like He did with those in the Bible. This caused me to want to tell others of His glorious deeds. I could not help but sit with wonder and awe as I grew in my God-confidence. I found that the discipline of Bible storytelling helped me recover what I had lost. Bible stories allow us to discover truth while we uncover the mystery of God, which allows us to embrace God’s beauty, and creativity around us. But even more important is what He has done for us through His Son Jesus where all the treasures of heaven are hidden. 

My newfound God-confidence spilled over into my relationships. The discipline of learning how to tell Bible stories made me grow in my relationship with God and others. I found myself loving God more and loving others more. 

Essentially, God used the discipline of Bible storytelling to grow me personally, corporately, and spiritually. All of those are end goals for authentic spiritual discipline! 

The spiritual discipline of learning how to tell a story will bring about an inward awakening and depth that will in turn build interpersonal communication and community. As we put into practice the telling of God’s Word, we will see a transformation in our community because the spiritual discipline has transformed us. 

When I set about on this journey of learning the art of storytelling, I did it so that I could reach the nations, but what I discovered was the LORD used it to call the deep out of me! 

Will you join me in the rally cry to call storytelling a Spiritual Discipline?

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Woman: Fragile, Delicate, Fire

When Adam calls Eve woman, he is calling her a fragile delicate fire. I love this. I see passion that easily can be snuffed out or fanned into a flame. God's word is so beautiful. I was pondering the gift of  womanhood.

My Greg has always treated me with such a blessing. I see it in little things like I never open my door. He always takes the time to go to the other side and take care of me first even when he is tired and hot. Once a torrential down pour started when we were in a store so Greg told me to wait as he ran to the car and pulled it up under the awning so I would not get wet. I laughed, felt special, and delighted in his gift. 

I could tell a thousand ways that Greg seeks to treat me like a fragile flame. I imagine when we first got married he worked hard at making sure he did it, but as time progressed it has become unconscious. It is a part of his memory map of how to treat a woman and more importantly to me his wife.

It occurred to me that I can easily take these for granted and I can also have the expectation. I am always aware when I am in the presence of men who do not do these things. I am old enough now and have lived in a pattern of being so blessed that when I do not receive it or seeing it done for another my heart longs for it. It is the little things that speak honor and care.

I watched a young man with his girl recently. He walked through door as she was left behind. He strode to the car without acknowledging her and then just got in the car and waited as she put the groceries away. My heart was sad. It was as much his loss as hers. 

So, this is a rally cry for men young and old. Women are a fragile fire. Culture tries to fight this truth. Don't let Culture trump the gift of womanhood. I have only given one simple example that a man can guard the fragile fire of woman. 

What has been your favorite way your man has guarded you? Or what has been a core way for you as a man to guard your woman? 

Celebrating that I am a fragile fire! You should too!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Widow's Mite

A reminder from July 15, 2019 at the Open Door Mission.

Today we looked at the widow's offering. We have been asking, How does Jesus value women? The conversations were so good. Look at the truths the women brought out of the story about Jesus and the widow. Again, we discovered how Jesus used people as visual aids. This time it was rich people and a widow. 

This narrative comes on the heals of Jesus just saying, "Watch out for the religious leaders that flaunt around in their fancy robes, praying loudly, seeking the best seats in the synagogue and market place while devouring widow's houses."  

Most theologians imply that the rich people who gave out of their abundance may have been giving from their profit they made off of the widow who gave of her two mites. 

One of the ladies at the mission said, "This is true for us today. How might we be overlooking someone that we legally or administratively had every right to do what we did to them, but in the process we destroyed them and forgot to see them?" 

Wozer! Thank God that Jesus reminds us to be observant and see people. Who might we be needing to see today? 

We discovered that the widow's value came in her sacrifice. It wasn't in the two mites she gave that was valuable, but what she had left. Nothing! 

This is a hard word. How do we know when our giving of time, talent, and treasure is a sacrifice? 

One thing for sure is she did not know the value. She was unconscious of how Jesus valued her offering. While the rich people were looking for recognition for their giving. If this does not convict you, I would suggest you pray. I know I need to humble myself and pray!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

"Here I am" Faith

Do you have a "Here I am faith?" As I examined Abraham's most trying moment in Genesis 22, I am humbled by the "Here I am faith!" 

Abraham took small daily steps of faith that caused him to leave family, land, and culture to walk in obedience to God. God had already given Abraham three promises that He would make His descendants like the stars in the sky and like the sand on the seashore (Genesis 12, 15, & 17).

The voice of God automatically invoked a "Here I am" attitude in Abraham.  All of those small steps of faith had already revealed that God is I AM. He is present. He is at work. Maybe Abraham thought, "My thoughts do not make sense when it comes to God's plan, but I am going to move forward in obedience knowing God will provide. He did with the birth of Isaac. He can do it in his death."

Abraham's obedience brought about the fourth reminder of the promised blessing! And a provision of a ram! God obviously wanted Abraham to keep moving forward by faith. 

But what really struck me about the story is that Abraham then went back into his simple routine. He gathered his servants and went back to moving forward in faith steps that are not even recorded.  Except that so and so had a baby and that his beloved Sarah, the one the promised child would come through, passed away. "Here I am" faith steps go unnoticed in the daily. Yes, they will show up at some point and surprise us that we have a faith stronger than we thought, but in the daily it seems more like normal living.

What we view as huge God moment leads us into living out simple faith steps in our daily routine. Great faith like Abraham's did not come in this moment. It came over time as he kept moving forward by faith. He kept listening for the voice of God and when he heard it, he took a step of faith that revealed a "Here I am" LORD attitude. 

What about you? Can you say that you are living in a "Here I am" attitude? Do you trust the LORD will provide? 

I think I have a new prayer to pray today!

Father, please give me an attitude of "Hear I am" LORD. I pray I am willing to do it in my daily routine through small faith steps trusting that You will provide and bring forth Your promised blessings.